Algeria gets an F for its climate actions. Tunisia gets a B. Why are these ratings important for the rest of the world?

The Cooperative Society Newsletter
January 2023, Issue 39
by E.G. Nadeau
, Ph.D.

I recently took a two-week trip to Tunisia and Algeria. Here are my observations on the climate situations in the two countries, which are neighbors in North Africa along the Mediterranean Sea.

Despite its fall back into authoritarianism, Tunisia appears to be making a genuine effort to reduce its carbon emissions. There are solar panels spread throughout the country. The government is planning an additional 1.7 GW of solar construction projects in the next three years.

Tunisia is famous for its olive trees and date palms that are ubiquitous in the northeast and northern regions of the country. These plantations are not only important to the country’s economy but also to its sequestration of carbon.

In October 2021, the country increased its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 41% by 2030 compared with 2010.

Date palms in Tunisia

A contrast in Algeria

Algeria, on the other hand, is on track to have a worse carbon emission record in 2030 than it did in 2015. Its 2015 climate plan sets a low goal of 27% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030, but its climate actions indicate that its performance will be far worse than that.

Algeria increased its oil and gas production during the Russian war on Ukraine in 2022, and accelerated its exploration for domestic gas and oil. In other words, Algeria is going backward rather than forward in its reduction of climate emissions.

These two countries account for a very small part of the world’s carbon emissions. But small percentages add up, especially in countries such as Algeria that are flaunting their disregard for the world’s clean energy initiatives.

A questionable sharing of energy

Algeria is far from alone in this category. Take Morocco, it’s neighbor to the west as another example. Much is being made of an agreement between Morocco and the United Kingdom in which electricity from solar and wind sources – enough to meet 8% of the UK’s electricity needs – is planned to be sent by undersea cable to the UK.

However, one doesn’t hear much about the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project in which Morocco is planning to participate with Nigeria and a number of other West African countries to pipe large quantities of natural gas within the region. If my calculations are correct (and they may not be), the gas project would transport about twelve times as much energy per year as the electricity project. So much for transitioning to clean energy.

Dozens of countries aren’t taking the reduction of carbon emissions seriously, or worse, like Algeria, are actually undercutting the world’s carbon emission goals.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, the UN helped countries negotiate a procedure to create “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) in which each country would develop its own climate goals and modify them over the years. The big problem with this approach is that there are no required targets for country-level goals, and some are abusing the process by setting weak goals or by not making an effort to carry out their goals.

A Berber cave house in Tunisia, probably a few hundred years old. The Berbers used the insulation of the caves to stay warm in winter and cool in the summer.

Dealing with scofflaws

There are three ways the world community can deal with these scofflaws: apply economic sanctions, provide incentives, or both.

For example, the G20 countries are imposing a $60 per barrel limit on the price of Russian oil in the international market. The goal is to limit Russia’s revenue from oil sales.

Similar international sanctions could be put on countries, like Algeria, whose energy policies and actions are increasing climate change problems rather than reducing them.

Incentives can also be a powerful means for improving energy performance. There is currently a project in South Africa intended to wean the country off coal and carry out a major shift to renewable energy. The United States and European countries are helping to finance this project.

Whether by economic sanctions, incentives, or both, the NDCs need to be backed up by enforcement and/or economic and technical assistance.

What could happen if we let the current pattern of hollow promises or outright disregard of needed climate actions continue? We won’t meet our goal – agreed to through the United Nations – of keeping the world’s temperature below 1.5°C compared to preindustrial levels, and we will reap the consequences in terms of human-made environmental catastrophe.

Photos by E.G. Nadeau

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